Inspired by Matthew 9:2-13
“And as [Jesus] sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’” Matthew 9:10-12 (NRSV)
Who do you spend your time with? It’s good to remain in community with other believers, so that you might encourage one another and build one another up in the faith. However we’re not called to form exclusive clubs with strict membership requirements. Jesus didn’t demand people change their lives or confess statements of faith before he dined or associated with them. It didn’t matter who you were—a disciple, a tax collector, a Pharisee, a prostitute—Jesus was pleased to have you with him and treated you with dignity and respect. You didn’t even have to come to him first, showing an interest in him or a desire to change your ways; this dinner party began with Jesus walking along and seeing Matthew the tax collector sitting in his tax booth, minding his own (likely exploitative) business. With no sign of interest from Matthew at all, Jesus approached him and called him to follow. No conditions that he must fulfill first, no threats of what would happen to his soul if he didn’t; just the invitation, “Follow me.” And Matthew followed, and was invited to dinner.
We are to take strength and encouragement from other believers, but we are also called to go out into the world and treat everyone, even the worst sinners we can imagine, with dignity and respect, no strings attached. Experiences of grace inspire conversion, not threats or conditions.
Let us pray. God of kindness, you created every human being in your image. Teach us to show all your children the dignity and respect they deserve, that all may experience your love and grace. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.